THE QUEST FOR A LIONS THREE-PEAT BEGINS IN CORK
All roads lead to the UCC Sports Grounds in Cork this Saturday for an opening round carnival of football to kick-off the 2018 ARFLI season, with the countries four men’s clubs each playing two matches across a huge day in the south of Ireland.
The two-time reigning ARFLI Premiers, the Leeside Lions, will begin their title defence on home turf and are out to start the new season in the same vein of form which has seen them lose just one match over the last two seasons.
Standing in the way of their quest to become the first club in Irish footy history to go back-to-back-to-back are their three competition rivals in the Belfast Redbacks, Galway Magpies and South Dublin Swans, who will be looking to steal some crucial early season points on the day to set up their own seasons ahead of home carnivals in the coming weeks.
Leeside will open the day’s proceedings against South Dublin at 1:30 pm before backing up to face Galway immediately after that, with Lion Eoin O’Suilleabhain telling afleurope.org that avoiding the “notoriously slow” starts that have hurt the side in the last two years will be a priority for the side.
“With it being our home Carnival, there’s no beating around the bush – we’re aiming for 2 wins. We know well that they won’t come easy, the Swans and Magpies aren’t teams that ever lay down, but with a good mix of experience and new blood I think we’re in good stead for the season opener,” he said.
“When you meet the Magpies, you’re preparing to spend a lot of time without the footy. Those boys use the ball well and get their key players on the ball a lot. If it’s the Swans, they can run you over in one quarter, smash in three quick goals and shut you out, as we’ve seen on numerous occasions. And with the Redbacks, they never let up – tackles, bumps, goals, spoils, hard-running – they are just relentless.”
The Lions, who finished third behind London powerhouses West London and Wandsworth in the recent Champions League event held in Amsterdam, have been buoyed in the offseason by a strong number of recruits from the University system to fill the gaps left by some high profile retirees Cian Quigley, Vincent Manning & Colin Lordan, who hung the boots up at the end of last season.
O’Suilleabhain believes this has left a strong mix of experience and “new blood” which can hold the Lions in good stead for their opening round fixtures.
“We’ll prepare accordingly… and believe we’ll have the measure of our opponents on the field – and in the pub after!”
ARFLI ROUND 1
UCC Sports Ground Curraheen, Cork
1:30 pm – Leeside Lions v Dublin Swans
2:15 pm – Leeside Lions v Galway Magpies
3:00 pm – Dublin Swans v Belfast Redbacks
3:45 pm – Galway Magpies v Belfast Redbacks
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe